About Snake OIl


I had breakfast with the wonderful Alison Slack yesterday.  We seldom get a chance to sit down and chat so we made a point of making it happen.  I’m so glad that we did.

We talked about many things and one thing that she shared with me was an article “How to Recognize Snake Oil in Your Personal Learning Network“.  It is a real thought provoking article and I whole-heartedly recommend that you read it at least once.  I think I’ve gone through it at least four times as of this writing and I pick out something new from each read and the comments.

I think it’s important to recognize and admit that we’re all selling something.  Perhaps not formal or touchable but I would suggest that ideas, thoughts, and experiences are just as powerful and can be as valuable.  I remembered a Murray McLauchlan song from long ago and it’s been going through my head since she mentioned the article.  The whole song isn’t relevant but certainly this part is:

Everybody has ambition
Everybody has a dream
But everybody don’t get to be kings and queens
That seems to be the way it seems

I think that the message heard tags on nicely to the post that Brandon Grasley made about expanding one’s online learning by “Finding “unusual” content using Zite“.  In addition to enriching your learning by reading, you enrich your learning by the folks that you include in your Personal Learning Network.  (A term that I’m not a fan or but is used throughout so I’ll include it.)

Reading an article is one thing.  Your attention can be grabbed with a catchy title and drawn in my a good opening paragraph.  It’s standard writing fare and writers use it all the time.  After the first paragraph, you do have the option to stop reading and move on if it’s not meeting your needs.

If we turn to social networking, it’s a bit difference.  Twitter messages, for example, have no title or opening paragraph.  In up to 140 characters, you get both barrels before you have a chance to really evaluate the merits of the post.  There are no pictures or diagrams – you just get it.  The brain is an amazing thing; the message gets taken in.  A well supported post may also include a link or two to online content that fleshes out issue.

A lot of the time it doesn’t. 

You’ve got everything that the author has.

I’m making the assumption here that a major reason you use social media is for learning and expanding your mind set.  Therein lies the rub.  The reason why you follow a person presumably is that you feel that you have something to learn from them.  So it begs the question “What are they selling?”

I think you also need to ask:

  • “Why are they selling it?”
  • “Do they actually practice what they’re preaching?”
    (A colleague once called it “All sizzle, no bacon”
  • “Are they consistent with their message?” 
  • “Do they engage in a worthwhile manner that’s worth your time to read?”
  • “Are they learning as well or just using the platform for personal promotion?”

Moderating things with Zite is relatively easy.  Just give it a thumbs down and Zite promises to give you better content.

On social media, it’s a bit different.  At times, the snake oil becomes annoying and repetitive.  At its worse, it can change your perception of things for the worse.  You may develop a negative attitude towards things that don’t deserve it or you may be cajoled into doing something that you shouldn’t or are not capable of doing.  At times, these people can exhibit the worst in bullying behaviour.

What to do?

Stand up and focus on why you’re connected in the first place.  I remember advice from my parents “Would you invite them into your house?”  I think it clearly applies here.  I’m a glass half-full kind of guy. I wouldn’t invite a bully into my house.  Why would I continue to have them in my online learning space?

Use the tools to address the snake oil salesperson.  Mute them, put them into a list that you don’t read regularly, unfollow or unfriend them.  Life is too short to be wasted on detractors.

Take back your Personal Learning Network and turn it into your positive learning again.  You’ll be glad you did.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I’ve been writing this series of posts for a long time now.  Check the URL above to see how many times it’s been duplicated.  I never get tired of doing it so here goes – some great content from Ontario Edubloggers this past week.


The Fabulous World of Mr. Fred

No matter how much I read, I still get excited when I find another new, excellent blog post to read.  I’ve been asked – how do you find these blogs?

Certainly, in a multitude of ways – there’s no easy algorithm.  I found this blog with a usual dose of serendipity.  In this case, Helen Kubiw had retweeted a Twitter message that I had posted.  I checked her bio, saw the link to her blog, and the rest as they say is history.

The blog title really says it all.  “CanLit for LittleCanadians”. The blog is devoted to reviews and promotion of Canadian authors so that’s a natural for me to gravitate to.

If you haven’t already, share the link with your literacy and teacher-librarian friends. Check out her list of recent entries – this isn’t a fly by night blog.  It’s a definite bookmark for Canadian literature.


Money Clouds

This might not be an easy post to read if you’ve sipped the juice from the big cloud providing services.  Tim King points out that there was a time when companies had to pay for advertising.  Now with distinguished, certified, exemplary handles, teachers are doing the advertising for them.   Tim shares his thoughts about the other side of cloud computing in schools.  You probably won’t agree with it all but I’ll bet you say “hmmmmm”.


“Tenzies!”

Jocelyn Schmidt describes a game she’s using in her Full Day Kindergarten class.  The mathematician in me loves it. Of course, everything is purposeful.

For students to build upon their subitizing (the ability to recognize the number of objects at a glance, without having to count all the objects), one-to-one correspondence (each object being counted must be given one count and only one count. The number word spoken and the object counted must match up), and conservation (the count of the object stays the same whether spread out or close together) skills in a hands-on and engaging way!

Complete instructions about the game, including some wonderful pictures of the activity (and not of the students) are contained in the post.  Any activity that is inspiration in mathematics and allows students to gain confidence in their abilities is great.  If this applies to you, check out her post.


Seymour Papert – 1972 – MIT Mathematician, Computer Scientist, and Educator

These days a lot of people have discovered Seymour Papert.  Brian Aspinall ends his short post with this question…

Why did it take so long to become “trendy” today?

That’s generated quite a bit of discussion and I might write a blog post about it sometime in the future.

I’m not sure that “trendy” is the best word to use to describe his efforts.  It seems to me that it is all dependent upon the circles that one keeps her/himself in.  There have been a lot of people doing a lot of great things for years now.

Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas should be in every school’s professional library and required reading for the modern day prophets…


Demands never Cease

My daily shot of inspiration comes from the morning posts from Paul Cornies.  He constantly outdoes himself.  Today’s quote was terrific although I had to MT it because of length before resharing.

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. ~Lou Holtz

This is one of those quotes that apply to everyone.

What a way to start the day.  I can’t say it enough – thanks, Paul.


Gift of a Snow Day

From Heather Durnin, a story that makes you appreciate the special things that teachers do.  It was a snow day but a student got delivered to school for a day of learning.

We all know that this can be a precious time of 1:1 or small group learning.  In Heather’s room, not only was it a chance to get caught up, but to build some self-esteem.  Read Heather’s full post to see how a student goes from “I suck at computers” to a day that Heather describes as a gift.

Heather


What another nice collection of works to extend our professional thinking.  Please follow the links to the original posts and check them out.  A little blogging love like a “+1″,  “like”, “thumbs up”, “comment”, “share” goes a long way to show your appreciation for the efforts and thoughts that go into the production of these posts. Check out these and all of the great Ontario Edubloggers I’ve found so far – here.

Will It Continue?


A week ago, we were in the middle of the #BIT14 conference.  Coming off a terrific workshop day, I was moving my poppy from one green shirt to another.  Lots of decisions to be made – my real wife suggested khaki pants with the shirt; my conference wife suggested black pants.  Why do I get myself into these things?

I had already done my morning reading and had replied to the multitudes of email that had come in over night.  I was sipping hotel room coffee which has to be among the worst there is.  I couldn’t wait to get to the convention centre, their good coffee, and the breakfast spread.

From a social media perspective, I had opened a column in Hootsuite to follow messages that were tagged with #BIT14.  There were all kinds of messages from people who had enjoyed their workshops and there were lots of people indicating that they were on the road to Niagara Falls.  It promised to be a great day.

As I scanned the column in Hootsuite, I noticed a lot of new Twitter users.  That was great and I was adding them to one of the two Twitter lists that I have for following Ontario Educators.  List 1List 2.  Hopefully, it will generate some new names for #FollowFriday.

I had also sent out this message…

It made sense to do it here.  Some of the best Ontario educational minds were in attendance and there were also some who were inspired to get started blogging by sharing their experiences and thoughts from the conference.

Then I started to wonder.

It’s a phenomenon that happens at every conference.  People see the value of social media and want to be part of it.  Accounts spring up; Twitter and Facebook messages abound; blogs get started.

And then?

Sometimes, it continues.  Sometimes, it doesn’t.  Sometimes, it goes into dormancy until the next PD event.

It’s easy to get swept up with things at a conference.  After all, there are so many new people, new topics, new things, new thinking.

Then, you return to reality.

But why should the enthusiasm stop?  There are great things that are happening in your reality all the time.  Why not share that with the world and continue the process of making connections that you started at the conference?  We all know that learning doesn’t stop – why should the sharing?

Endnote – I’m not dummy.  Khaki on Thursday, black on Friday.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


This is the big week for computer learning in the province of Ontario.  Since 1979, the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario has held an annual conference for learning.  This year’s event started Wednesday and continues through until today.  There’s already some great blogging about the event.


Questioning Forward

For today, George is an honorary Ontario Educator as our closing keynote speaker.  We’re really excited to hear his message and be motivated with his call to action.  George has been working with Ontario Educators in a number of forums over the past year.  Recently, he’s worked with the Trillium Lakelands DSB.  Read his observations about this experience in this post.

If you’re inspired by this post and happen to be in the neighbourhood, the conference will take in walk-in registrations!


Bring IT Together 2 (ECOO & OASBO-IT) – Day 1

I love it when people are inspired by their learning and head right to their keyboard to share their thoughts, learnings, and observations.

Rebecca Grimes reflects on the opening keynote Wednesday – a unique opportunity to hear from Brian Silverman and Artemis Papert – and her learning from the LEARNstyle learning events.


BIT 2014 Day One

Committee member Paul McGuire took in the Minds on Media event on Day 1.  He saw and commented on the success with the format in this blog post.

It looks like we might have another Minecraft junky on board!

But, I was particularly interest to see that he took in the Ubuntu session and is considering doing some upgrades at home.  I hope that goes well and that he extends it to his educational community.  Breathing great life into machines that are underpowered by the traditional operating system can go a long way to providing a home computer for every student.

I wonder if Paul knows that the Minds on Media team have actually taken their model to individual schools for a school learning event.


#BIT14, Day 1

A personal highlight for me yesterday was running into Colleen Rose a couple of times.  I’m a regular reader of her blog and she made the mistake once of posting that she does photography with her students.  That was enough to get me to invite her to be a leader in the Photowalk.  She was one of the leaders I walked with last year and I learned so much about taking pictures in the dark from her.  I’m looking forward to doing it again this year.  I hope the s* reports from the Buffalo news stations is just so much static.

Her learning for the day centred around the TVO Teach Ontario session.  Colleen provides some links to the resources but the neat part of her post is her posting of the photos from her day.  Look for the ugly guy who appears a couple of times.


Let it go #BIT

This is a bit of a timeshift – Danika Tipping is presenting about Strategies for the English Classroom and has put her slidedeck online.

So, it’s about 5am on Thursday as I write this post for a presentation that will happen later today.  I get the chance to enjoy her slide deck now.  When this post goes live tomorrow, the presentation will be over.  I look at it as a teaser and I hope to be able to sit in on her presentation.


It’s a shame that all Ontario Educators couldn’t join us in Niagara Falls but I guess some have to hold down the fort while others are out learning.  Thanks to the concept of the blog post, everyone can at least follow along with the events online.

Links are provided to the posts above and the entire list of Ontario Edubloggers can be accessed here.

Well, That Worked Well


As folks from Ontario know, Friday’s are pretty special for me.  I create a blog post to highlight some of the great blogging that I read from Ontario Edubloggers.  I hope that readers of this blog are inspired to go and support those folks.  I also spend a few minutes doing #FollowFriday shoutouts to Ontario Twitter users who have been active – usually Thursday afternoon and evenings.

Donna Fry wrote a kind blog post acknowledging this yesterday. “LEARNING FROM ONTARIO EDUCATORS

Doug’s #FollowFriday “Active Ontario Educators” posts on Twitter are the perfect starting place for new and old tweeters alike as we build our online PLNs in social media.

What I find very cool happens when folks retweet my message, thereby increasing the notifications.  It reinforces the notion that we’re connecting ourselves here in the province.

There was just one hitch for my regular routine yesterday.

I wasn’t going to be around to do the #FollowFridays as per normal.  But, I still wanted to make it happen.

So, I tried something new.

I was working away on things for the Bring IT, Together conference Thursday evening and had my twice daily Google Hangout with conference co-chair Cyndie Jacobs.  I’ll confess (hopefully she doesn’t read this post) that she didn’t have my entire attention.

Instead, I was giving something new (for me, at least) a shot.

I’ve been a long time fan of Hootsuite as a way to monitor my followers and my lists on Twitter.  There was one feature that I’ve never used before – that being scheduled Twitter messages.  There was no better time to try it out.

So, I did.

It was a snap.  It was simply a matter of composing the Twitter message like I normally would.

Then, clicking the calendar icon revealed a calendar and a time picker.  To do the deed, I just picked tomorrow at 5am so that they would appear like they regularly would.

And, it worked very nicely.  The Twitter messages got sent out just like normal.  As I review them now, there’s really no indication that there was anything different about the sending of them.  I like that.  Very much.

Now, there are other tools like Buffer that can allow you to do the same thing but I like the fact that it was just an option in my regular browser routine.  For me, this is a keeper if I ever need to do it again.  For a long time, I’ve been scheduling blog posts to appear at 5am and that allows me the flexibility of writing them when the mood hits.  Now, I can do the same with Twitter.

The only bit of angst was in the composition of the messages and NOT selecting the scheduling option.  We wouldn’t want them to appear Thursday night now, would we?

Pre #BIT14 Interview with David Hann and Heather Durnin


Michelle Cordy (@cordym) continues her series of interviews of notables presenting at the Bring IT, Together Conference next week, November 5-7, 2014 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls.  This time, it was an interview with Heather Durnin and David Hann.

Now, I’ve known Heather Durnin (@hdurnin) for a number of years now.  She does amazing things with her students in Huron County.  David Hann was a person that I met for the first time last year at the Bring IT, Together Conference.  He was showing off his 3D printer and talking about how he was using it with his students.  I got the chance to take a peek at his presentation but quickly got called away.  He did make me a plastic replica of the ECOO logo as a takeaway.  I was completely impressed with the detail.

Both Heather and David are presenting separate sessions at this year’s conference.  (Heather is also on the conference planning committee).  I should have known this fact immediately but when I went into Lanyrd to get links to their presentations, I was really struck that there are 334 speakers in the database for the conference.  There just might be a few more…

David’s session at the conference is called “How to make use of a Makerbot 3D Printer in Your School – Year II“.  He is co-presenting with Ray Mercer and the description of their session is here.

Heather will be very active at the conference.  In addition to her responsibilities on the planning committee, she’ll have a station at the Minds on Media event “Three Dimensions in Student Learning” where the learning will be very hands-on.  The Minds on Media wiki went live yesterday and is available here.  Later in the conference, she will co-present with Marc Westra on the same topic.  If you miss her at Minds on Media, attend the session as described here.  If you miss her in both those places, lace up your running shoes and join her in the Friday morning “Run/Walk/Be Active with Alana! / Course/marche/ Soyez actif avec Alana!” event.

Heather and David were interviewed and shared their thoughts about #makered.

Watch the interview here.

There’s still time to register for the #BIT14 Conference.  You’ll get a chance to learn alongside great minds like theirs.

Michelle’s other interviews as we head to the conference appear below.

Pre BIT#14 Interview with Heidi Siwak


Michelle Cordy (@cordym) continues with her series of interviews of presenters leading to the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls on November 5, 6, and 7.  This time, she teamed with Jane Mitchinson (@JMitchinson) to interview Heidi Siwak @HeidiSiwak.

Heidi is actually featured twice on the Bring IT, Together schedule.  On Wednesday, she will be running a station dealing with 3D Printing at the Minds on Media event.  Then, on Thursday, she will do her own session “An Introduction to Integrative Thinking“.

You need to follow the link above and head over to Lanyrd to read her complete description.  It starts with a warning…

“This session will not be about the technology. You won’t find out how to use any cool online tools. SAMR will not be discussed. This session is about thinking, knowledge building and the deep practices that shift how students think so that when technology is introduced it supports a new kind of learning.”

With an introduction like that, you can’t help but be hooked.

Michelle’s interview appears below:

Michelle’s previous interviews leading into the #BIT14 conference…